Ten feet from the Spirit Bear, Cole flings the spear. The bear swats it away and then leaps, knocking Cole down and shoving his face in the dirt. Cole scrambles to his feet and races for the trees, but the bear chases him and drags him down again. Cole grabs for something, but he only gets Devil’s Club. He ignores the tiny spines as the bear lifts him by the thigh. Cole feels his pelvis crack as the bear drops him and claws at his torso. When Cole lifts a hand, the bear bites it and swings Cole back and forth. Cole reaches out and comes away with a handful of fur. The bear drops Cole, but then comes forward again. It stands on Cole’s chest and shoves, cracking Cole’s ribs. A few minutes later, it saunters away.
The bear’s attack to be expected given Cole’s behavior. In many ways, this is the first time that Cole has to face consequences for his bad choices and his need to exert his power over everyone and everything. It’s telling, then, that the trauma is so intense—Cole probably Peter (and others) a similar amount of pain throughout the course of his various criminal escapades. When the bear leaves him so casually, it reinforces that as a human, Cole is powerless in the face of the natural world.
Cole can’t move anything except his head and his left arm, and everything hurts. Blood drips from his mouth and down his throat, which chokes him—but when he coughs, the pain is unbearable. Ten feet away, seagulls pick at something: Cole realizes that they’re eating bits of his torso that the bear tore up. There’s nothing he can do to make the seagulls go away, and he’s enraged that the gulls are treating him like any other animal. Cole wishes he had a gun. He tries to think about the mauling. It doesn’t make sense—everything is afraid of him, but for some reason, this bear wasn’t. Cole is thrilled to see that his nearby knife is bloody and that he still has the bear’s fur in his hand. He puts the fur in his pocket so he can prove his story later.
Though it’s impossible to tell if these are the same seagulls from Chapter 7, it’s also quite the coincidence that seagulls literally feast on Cole’s body after he stole their meal earlier. This recalls Garvey’s earlier advice that the natural world can either help Cole live, or it can kill him. When Cole wishes he had a gun, it reflects his desire to feel superior and empowered. His belief that the bear’s mauling doesn’t make sense indicates that Cole has never had someone (or something) call his bluff before.
Cole tries to move, but he can’t. His arm is useless, and his hand points the wrong direction. His legs don’t work either. He looks around in a circle and sees that everything else seems to be part of something bigger. Cole feels alone and knows that he’s not a part of this place. Feeling haunted, Cole knows that night will eventually arrive. He’s not sure what will happen when he dies, and he wonders if the Spirit Bear or the seagulls will return to eat him before he passes away. Cole has had nightmares of being helpless all his life, but this is his worst nightmare. As his stomach cramps, he crushes a caterpillar to teach it a lesson. When Cole wipes blood off his mouth, he notes that it looks just like the bear’s blood and just like Peter’s blood—but Peter is a loser, and the bear is stupid.
Now that Cole is stuck here, he begins to think more about how Garvey and Edwin insisted that he is part of a much larger circle of life, whether he likes it or not. Even though Cole doesn’t feel as though he’s part of the circle with the other animals, this thought does force him to acknowledge that the circle of life includes death—and he could die as a result of what happened. His unwillingness to recognize that the bear did to him exactly what he did to Peter shows that even now, Cole isn’t willing to take responsibility for his actions.
Cole’s stomach cramps, causing him to vomits. He’s in excruciating pain, and he blacks out. Hours later, when he wakes up, he looks around at his vomit, the bay, and the ocean. He damns everything he can see and wishes he’d gone to jail, where at least he’d have some control—unlike on the island. Feeling small and lonely, he begins to cry.
Alone and with no one to help him, there’s no telling whether Cole will live or die. By spurning everyone’s attempts to help him, he’s now at the mercy of the natural world—and it doesn’t care whether he lives or not.